March 24, 2011

Spring's Arrival Coincides With Start of Grassfire Season

As warmer weather arrives, more people are working outside cleaning winter debris and preparing for the upcoming farm season. Typically the wildfire season goes hand-in-hand with this weather transition, and thus far 2011 has been no different.

The Scotland County fire department has responded to half a dozen grass fire calls already this month.

On Sunday afternoon, firemen used water backpacks and rakes to douse a blaze that originated on the highway right of way along Route T near Bible Grove. The legwork was made necessary due to wet soil conditions that prevented vehicle traffic. The volunteer force spent approximately an hour extinguishing remnants of the fire that apparently was intentionally set to consume a hay bale that had fallen off a trailer and broken apart.

The bulk of the fires originated as controlled burns that got away from the property owners or in trash or brush fires that were spread by the wind.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a combination of dry weather and wind make early spring the heart of wildfire season in Missouri. Across the Show-Me State, thousands of acres of forest and grassland will burn. Most of these fires will be caused by human negligence or malicious arson.

In 2009, the MDC reported 3,779 wildfires which impacted more than 42,400 acres.

Experts recommend property owners planning a controlled burn avoid burning on dry, windy days. Pick an overcast day when winds are calm and humidity is high. Try to burn before 10:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m. This is when winds are usually calmest and humidity is highest.

Other tips from MDC include keeping brush piles small (about 5 feet by 5 feet), and burn them in open fields when snow is on the ground or in the late spring after the grass has greened up. Another protection idea is covering the debris pile with a waterproof tarp. After a rain, when the surrounding vegetation is wet, remove the plastic and it will be perfect to burn. This helps reduce the chance of the fire spreading to surrounding vegetation.

Before performing a controlled burn, the MDC recommends fire monitors gather rakes, wet burlap sacks and other firefighting tools to allow quick action be taken should the fire start to get out of control. Call the fire department immediately should a fire escape. The Scotland County Fire Department emergency number is 465-2121.

The fire protection corporation will respond to all emergency calls on property with paid memberships. The fire department can only respond to non-member fires with the brush-truck unit, which is provided to the Scotland County Fire Department through a MDC wildfire protection grant, and thus is required to respond to all grassfires.

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